Misinformation is floating around regarding the River Democracy Act, including last week’s letter from Alicia Andrus. The Act, S. 192, was proposed by Sen. Ron Wyden and Sen. Jeff Merkley, and Oregonians assisted by nominating streams for this bill. It adds 4% of Oregon’s rivers and streams to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (NWSR) and provides amendments to NWSR to help reduce wildfire risk and protect water for people who use rivers as their drinking water source.
In Wyden’s own words to the Eastern Oregon Counties Association, the River Democracy Act “does not affect management of private property.” The River Democracy Act amends the NWSR Act to say that “nothing in this act or an amendment made by this act affects private property rights.”
The River Democracy Act does implement a management plan and fire risk reduction plan on federal lands, restore water quality after a fire, give Native Americans a voice in how rivers are managed on federal lands, and retain existing rights on federal land, including mining and grazing permits.
The catastrophe unfolding for salmon in the Lower Snake River shows that clean water and fish survival do not automatically remain intact even if they are good quality now. If there are provisions that opponents of this bill would like, I encourage people to contact Wyden’s office to discuss them. Spreading misinformation is not helpful to the discussion.
I appreciate Wyden and Merkley for working to preserve our beautiful rivers.